Family Fortunes?

My dad was a great bloke whose default position for people/things that offended him, politically or morally, was to intone only mildly passionately that they should be stood up against the wall and shot. Given that he was a generous lump – six feet, fifteen stone – that may make him a sound like some rather intimidating Northern Philistine, coming as he did from Macclesfield. But though he certainly possessed that particular ability to glory in dumb-honest normalcy – a trait I am kindof proud to continue – he was Top Five when it came to harmlessness, straightness, generosity. There was not an ounce of violence within him.

I mention this because I can’t help but think of this entirely hollow threat to shoot some sharply defined perpetrator in relation to Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s aide/doctor/pharmacist; (you decide).

Murray would have been a candidate for the blindfold stagger, one might imagine. Hugely rich (by our standards), almost certainly conceited, professionally lazy, negligent. Arguably a parasite, arguably one of many attached to the shockingly lost pop superstar. Murray, according to reports that I haven’t bothered to check (because I am happier skimming the surface of this depressing episode) drew about 100 grand a month for his attention to Mr Jackson; this for the privilege of pretty much 24 hour drug provision. Issues thereafter become foggy, due to the very real questions around medical need as opposed to recreational use of said drugs. If there is or was an opposition.

My dad would, in his weirdly un-hip way, have loved some of Jackson’s music and even his dancing, despite the chasm of divergent realities separating MJ from Keith Winston Walton (who also died criminally young). This is perhaps one of Jackson’s triumphs – his ability to entrap much of the planet in his moonwalking, hip-twitching genius. Post 78’s Pater could no more sing or dance than imagine a blackberry but there was something Jackson had that was, for a time genuinely thrilling – revolutionary even – as well as hummable. The appallingly high-profile denudation of this gift troubled most of us at some level; it made some of us embarrassed, some angry, some sad to see the unassailable King Of Pop contort and crumble into the later model. But whose fault was it?

Murray put himself in the firing line through a combination of greed and slackness rather than evil in my view. The screaming, high-fiving, JUSTICE placard-wielding fans and family members who cheered and celebrated his conviction, enacting their champagne emotions just like they imagine real celebrities might, were depressingly appropriate players in the malodorous panto. It was America at its shrillest. No matter, no sense that Jackson drifted on some ark cobbled together in a crazy mountain kingdom and then smashed his way down hanging valleys to a limpid, medically-regulated pool, collecting kids, hangers-on and increasingly harrowing constructions of self on the awful journey. No matter that all this love for him melted away the closer you got. Murray was therefore and without question – on some merit, in fact -a burnished receptacle for blame.

Jackson’s family life -the stuff that would ordinarily be called ‘home life’ – has been heavily documented. It might be uncharitable to suggest that his family remains exhibit A in the case against singling out Murray but… where else do we need to go? It seems to be true that nobody cared enough for Michael to either guide, counsel or over-rule him. And the consequence was fatal indulgence, compounded by poor service from his private Drugs-on Wheels service. Could it be true that nobody cared? Is that what the evidence suggests? Who do we blame?

I blame lack of attention, lack of love, lack of intelligence, lack of moral fibre. I blame celebrities, I blame hangers-on and I blame American Culture (coming over here). And my dad says that they should all be stood up against the wall… and shot.

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